Mr. Pettigrew, in past his
seventieth year at the time this sketch is written, is enjoying abounding
health and almost youthful vigor, and the fruits of his long struggle from
an humble beginning to a position of independence.
He was born in the Village of New
Lanark, in the beautiful valley of the Clyde, February 4, 1844. He learned
the trade of machinist in Glasgow, serving five years’ apprenticeship.
Coming to Chicago in 1867, he worked there and in Rock Island, Ill., for
three years, when he entered the employ of the Union Iron, Coal and
Transportation Co., then owning an iron rail and puddle mill at Joliet,
Ill. Mr. Pettigrew took an active part in the transformation of the plant
from a simple iron mill to a modern steel rail plant.
During the earlier years in which he
was associated with the plant, he advanced rapidly, becoming Foreman of
the machine shop, then Master Mechanic, then Assistant Superintendent,
then Superintendent, and finally, General Manager, having been with the
company twenty-six years in all. In 1896, he resigned his position with
this company; the plant at this time employed 2,300 men and during his
regime became merged into the illinois Steel Company. It grew to such
magnitude that when that company became part of the United States Steel
Corporation, the plant over which Mr. Pettigrew presided was the largest
of its kind outside of the Pittsburgh district and one of the leading
steel works on the American continent. During the years of his
participation in the management, several notable developments were made
there in steel works practice through his devoted effort. The first
blowing engine was used there with Corliss valves on its steam cylinders
and metal valves on its blowing cylinders. There also tubular boilers were
first used in blast-furnace practice; and rails were first roiled from the
initial heat of the ingot and in double lengths. The plant was also among
the first to use automatic machinery to serve a rail train, and was the
first to use a chain conveyor to carry scrap from a bloom or billet shear.
Without these appliances the enormous daily tonnages of modern steel
plants would not be possible.
During his residence in Joliet, he
was elected a member of the City Council from the first ward, serving for
two years, 1879 and 1880. In the latter year he introduced an ordinance
raising the license for saloons to $500; up to that time it had been $50.
Still later this was raised to $1,000. Mr. Pettigrew discovered that each
saloon was costing the city, for its share of crime, poverty and
delinquency, that amount, and thought they ought to pay their share. A
majority of the Council agreed with him. He believes his was the first
high license ordinance passed by any City Council in America.
On leaving Joliet, he entered the
employ of the American Steel Company at Indianapolis, rehabilitating their
plant. That completed, he removed to Sparrows Point, Md., becoming General
Superintendent of the steel plant there. This plant had never paid a
dividend, but during the seven years of his service he had the
satisfaction of putting it on a paying basis.
In no way can his constructive work
there he better illustrated than by referring to published statistics,
which show that while the Edgar Thompson Steel Works in 1903 averaged 8%
of seconds in its rail output, the Illinois Steel Co., 18%, t.he Ohio
Steel Co., 15%, the plant at Sparrows Point, under Mr. Pettigrew ‘s
management, reduced its average of seconds to 2.8%.
In 1904, in line with a plan long in
contemplation, Mr. Pettigrew, at the age of sixty years, retired from
active work, and has since devoted his life to travel and study, spending
his summers at his beautiful home in Bridgeport, Conn., and his winters by
turns in Southern California, France or Italy. At the time of his
resignation from his position at Sparrows Point, he received such an
ovation from his associates, down to the humblest workers, as few men ever